The definition of nutrition is “to supply with what is necessary for life, health and growth.” Most people recognize this as being important for the body, and think of it only as ensuring that they consume the appropriate vitamins and minerals that will keep their body healthy. However, nutrition is also extremely important for the mind.
People scoff at clichés, but there are no truer words than “You are what you eat.”
Unfortunately, these days it is extremely difficult to know what you are eating.
While technology has helped increase the production of a variety of foods enormously, it has also introduced growth hormones into chicken and beef, and pesticides into our fresh fruits and vegetables. It is difficult for the average individual to ensure that they eat only “natural” foods, should they actually wish to do so.
While unhealthy food additives is of course a concern – and one that you should discuss with your nutritional therapist, a greater concern is that people just don’t “eat healthy” at all.
Many people eat too much for their activity level
Let’s state the obvious. Most people eat too much for their level of daily activity (and for their metabolism type). People who consume more calories than they use will gain weight, and when they gain more than 5 pounds over their optimum weight, this is not healthy. (Nor is it healthy to be 5 pounds or more under what a person should ideally weigh, based on their height and skeletal type). Fine-boned, medium-boned and heavy-boned people, all of the same height, will have different optimum weights and body mass.
Why do people eat too much?
Over-eating is caused by a variety of factors.
Many people eat all the time because they feel hungry all the time. They never realize that one reason why they continuously feel hungry is because the very food they eat causes cravings and hunger! (Why is it that no one can eat “just one” potato chip? There is a physiological reason why this is the case.)
Other people eat because they are bored, or because they are emotionally distressed and need comfort food.
Many people eat unhealthy foods
I’m not talking here about the unhealthy hormones and pesticide residues we may be eating with our chicken or steak and heaping plate of vegetables.
People consume too much candy and soda pop. They eat refined sugars. They consume both “good” and “bad” carbs. (We all need carbohydrates in our diet. It’s just a matter of which type of carbs you eat.)
Nutrition for mind and body is a relatively new concept. Obviously, nutritionists have been around for decades, but the connection between poor nutrition and the brain’s response to it has only been explored in the last decade or so.
The brain needs nutrition as well
The brain actually needs a variety of nutrition, of a supply of food that is “necessary for life, health and growth.” There are two types of food – mental stimulation such as reading books, doing crossword puzzles, playing scrabble or even cards – activities that keep the mind alert.
But the alertness of the mind, and its overall health, can also be affected by the actual food that we eat every day.
A case in point is caffeine. How many people feel sluggish in the morning before they have their first cup of coffee? How many feel jittery at night and can’t sleep, because they’ve drank too much caffeine?
Another case in point… sugar. How many kids can’t sit still in school because they’ve had a bowl of sugar-laced cereal that gives them physical energy they need to burn off?
The connection between what we eat and how our minds work is inescapable.